Finishing Crotch and Ribbon Mahogany

Suggestions for finishing a fine Mahogany table to accentuate and enhance the figure. June 18, 2013

I built a replacement top for a jupe table, with pie shaped crotch mahogany pieces for the circle and ribbon mahogany for the inserts. The existing base and rim are mahogany, but not too red, maybe a little more yellow/green. The color differential between crotch and ribbon is an issue I knew I would have to deal with. I generally use water stains (aniline dyes). I suspected I would have to bleach out the crotch and maybe the ribbon. Bleaching helps kill the red, allowing for easier color matching. I will be bleaching with two part wood bleach, staining, sealing with Krystal sealer, then filling with Behlen's grain filler, sanding, sealing again, then topcoating with Krystal. Looking for any pitfalls. I like the tone that Zinsser dewaxed shellac gives and am thinking of initially sealing with that and then filling.

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Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
While you can certainly go that route, I have a suggestion or two. I take it the top is sitting on the base. The base looks like a lovely deep rich brown mahogany. I would not bleach the top. I really do not like this approach. There should be variations between the ribbon and the crotch. I would not use the aniline dye for this application either. It's just too unforgiving. Not much wiggle room. I would mix up an appropriate Mohawk wiping stain. I would use 75% stain and 25% aniline dyes. I would make it a little lighter than the desired final color. Then the top can be toned in with just dye in your gun.

Since you're using MLC products instead of Krystal sealer, I would use Level sealer 45% solids vs 35% for Krystal. It is super fast building. I would use it to fill the surface. I would not use any manufactured grain filler. Just too much work. In review I would achieve the color I was happy with, then fill the surface with level sealer, then top coat and you're done.

Hope that helps. Just a finisher's perspective. By the way, you build beautiful furniture.

From contributor R:
Seems it would be a shame not to accentuate the pores on such a fancy wood species. A contrasting color in the pores adds another dimension to the piece being finished.

Duncan Phyfe, Chippendale, and Sheraton (just to name a few) used a complementary color either by using a paste wood filler or a Pumice/Rottenstone to achieve this look.

However you decide to complete this project, your client is sure to appreciate your creation.

From the original questioner:
I am curious to know how many people use Level Sealer as a grain filler. My Campbell rep has suggested this route a few times, essentially laying it on in a few thick coats and sanding down until just the pores are filled. I would use a dark color Level Sealer to approximate the Pore O Pac color I would usually fill the grain with. In some senses, at least for me, water stains are easier to work with than Mohawk or Campbell's Woodsong stains. They remain saturated longer and I can stain large surfaces using a sponge. I have found the Mohawk and Campbell stains to flash off quickly. They are designed to be sprayed and not wiped on and I have always wiped on stains. That said, if my Campbell rep can give me colors that will eliminate the need for bleaching I would not disagree and I could be talked into spraying stain. The contrast between crotch and ribbon is so much I need to get them closer and the client agreed.

From contributor R:
I don't really know what the final color you're going for is but if it were my table I would stain the entire top with a water based dye so that the darker colored wood is close to the final color (I believe that would be the crotch in your top).

After the stain dried I would mask off the ribbon mahogany and spray a wash coat of sealer on the crotch. Now you can remove the masking and color the ribbon with the water based dye to get it to match the crotch.

Wash coat the entire top and then wipe with your oil stain or tone with an alcohol based dye stain to even everything out and get to your final color.

I don't like using level sealer myself, I prefer to use a polyester sealer and a 2k urethane topcoat.